Tag Archives: steven spielberg

Oscar Bait – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri / The Post

Title: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Director: Martin McDonagh
Year: 2017
Country: USA

I tell you, this awards season is getting harder and harder to pick a favourite. Seriously, last year it was difficult because of La La Land, Moonlight and Arrival all being incredible movies… but I am having real trouble here. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri just feels like a masterclass in acting.

If you had told me that this film was a Coen Brothers production I would have probably been taken in. I mean, this is a very black comedy starring Frances McDormand that is laugh out loud funny and yet has some extremely touching moments. Sounds like a Coen Brothers film to me.

Seriously though, for a film about a grieving mother who is relentless in her mission to bring the murderer of her daughter to justice, I haven’t laughed out loud so much in months. The script is a work of genius and I really hope that it wins the Best Original Screenplay nod as, of all the nominated films I’ve seen, it really deserves it.

Then again, the script flies because of the performances by the three leads – with Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell being the obvious standouts. Back when I watched The Shape of Water I thought I wouldn’t see a better leading female performance this year… only to be proven wrong. I also have to admit defeat that, once again, it won’t be Michael Stuhlbarg’s year as Sam Rockwell somehow makes you cheer for his utterly ridiculous and racist cop.

Going into this film I expected this to be all about the investigation, but instead this boils down to a character study about stress, grief and the sense for justice. There is a fantastic scene that really epitomises this for me, and it’s where Frances McDormand’s character gives a speech about culpability. There’s a wider message here for society as a whole (although she directs it at the church), but that’s something for another time.

Title: The Post
Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 2017
Country: USA

On the surface of it, I should have the same complaint with The Post as I did with Darkest HourThis is a movie about a newspaper investigation (something the Academy likes), directed by Steven Spielberg (whose films usually garner nominations) and starring multi-Oscar winning actors Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Hell, it even includes Michael Stuhlbarg in a supporting role… which appears to be a sign of Oscar quality nowadays.

The thing is, where this contains the recipe for Oscar glory this feels like a film that has been made more because of the current political climate than in the quest for awards. Because of this, and it’s something that becomes clear very quickly, it feels like The Post will be a film that’s remembered for a lot longer.

Also, whilst they stretch the truth of the involvement of the Washington Post’s involvement in the Pentagon Papers, they don’t just invent scenes that are out of character just for the sake of an Oscar nomination reel. Also also… at least The Post is interesting and paints these characters as real people that you can root for.

Now.. as much as I love Meryl Streep, I don’t think this is an award worthy performance. There’s not a whole lot for her to work with here (unlike Frances McDormand and Sally Hawkins) but, to be fair, that’s the role and she pitches it exactly correctly. Same goes for Tom Hanks… who seems to have been forgotten by the Academy of late.

For me, the best thing about this film was just watching Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks acting together. Considering all the scandals going on in Hollywood there is something mildly therapeutic about watching these two masters onscreen together. The Post is worth a watch just for that to be honest.

Oscar Bait – Bridge of Spies / Mad Max: Fury Road


Title: Bridge of Spies
Director: Steven Spielberg
Year: 2015
Country: USA

I think it is fair to categorically say that Bridge of Spies is one of those films that really benefited from the expansion of the Best Picture nominations to the maximum of 10. I can not see this being a nominated film otherwise. Then again, where is Carol, Creed or Inside Out? Well, you have a pro-America film that is directed by Steven Spielberg, penned by the Coen Brothers and starring Tom Hanks. I bet this pedigree alone gave it votes.

I’m being unfair. Bridge of Spies is a really good spy thriller with genuine moments of Coen-style absurdity. Tom Hanks puts in an always great performance as a real-life character who embodies the American ideal, despite the fact that the Americans who surround him are very much acting like idea Americans.

What helps this film along is the knowledge that it really happened. Sure there will be a few embellishments to help along the story, but this prisoner swap between the US with East Germany and the Soviet Union is real. Considering that, everything you see on the screen is actually pretty amazing.

It is a toss up between this and Brooklyn for what I liked more. Both are films of two halves spent in different counties, and it is in this scenery change where Bridge of Spies just edges out Brooklyn. Where Bridge of Spies was able to ramp up the tension and intrigue (even though the brilliant Russian spy played by Mark Rylance is absent), Brookyln stalled ever so slightly.

mad max fury road
Title: Mad Max: Fury Road
Director: George Miller
Year: 2015
Country: Australia/USA

Talk about leaving one of the best until last. My husband specifically wanted to see this one, so things being as they are it was the one I got around to last. It made for a brilliant finale to this list of eight.

I, like many people, was both pleased and surprised to see Mad Max: Fury Road nominated for Best Picture. It’s rare to see an action sci-fi film getting the nod at the Oscars. It’s even rarer to have a film like this picking up a lot of Best Picture awards from other organisations on the way. I hope it marks a sea change.

When stacked against the other seven films that have been nominated Mad Max: Fury Road really does stand out. It’s easily the one with the least scripted lines and most cuts per minute. Having recently seen the original Mad Max (and neither of the two movies in between) the world is vastly different. No, not just because Tom Hardy makes for a better looking lead.

Then again, Charlize Theron is the real lead here, isn’t she? Her role as the amputee road warrior Imperator Furiosa just steals it. I have yet to see most of the best Actress nominees in action (still need to see Carol, Joy and 45 Years) and yet I have a hard time seeing why Charlize Theron would not be nominated. It would have added a different slant to the current rhetoric of the Academy not nominating any African-American for an acting nod.

Anyway, the thing that put me off seeing this in the cinema is that I just foresaw this as being one long car chase. Now that I have seen this on DVD… it is still one long car chase. But what a car chase it is! I can not remember the last time I have seen such amazing special effects that were not CGI.

Same goes for sheer imagination. When looking at this mythology that George Miller has created in this post-apocalyptic Earth… well there are very few films (or even video games for that matter) that come close.

I could go on, but I won’t. Writing these posts does make me want to talk to someone about these films. So, anyone who has seen all eight films, please comment – I’m keen to see your rankings too.

Current Rankings
1) Spotlight
2) Room
3) Mad Max: Fury Road
4) The Big Short
5) The Martian
6) Bridge of Spies
7) Brooklyn

8) The Revenant

List Item: Watch all Best Picture Winners (to date)

Now that I that I have seen all eight movies I think I can call this a check off in advance of the ceremony itself.

Progress: 83/89